HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP/KDKA) — A report by an environmental and consumer advocacy group is giving Pennsylvania an “F” for its efforts to remove lead from drinking water in schools.
PennEnvironment and PennPIRG released the grade Tuesday, saying Pennsylvania hasn’t been aggressive enough in replacing lead pipes, plumbing or fixtures in schools.
“This is happening in every corner of the commonwealth from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia and from Lancaster to Erie,” Ashleigh Deemer, with PennEnvironment, said. “It’s happening in rural schools, like in Summit, Butler County, where lead levels in water were high enough to cause acute lead poisoning that went undisclosed in the community for months.”
Three administrators at Summit Elementary School resigned in 2018 because of the scandal involving contaminated water. A lawsuit filed against the district said the administrators knew about the problem, but didn’t make it public for months.
“Most parents would be shocked to know that most schools are not required to test their drinking water for lead,” Deemer said.
Lead can cause lifelong brain damage and other harm, especially for children; although, Pennsylvania health officials say exposure to lead-based paint chips and dust, not tainted water, is the primary cause of childhood lead poisoning.
The state Department of Environmental Protection said in 2016 it had reviewed public water systems serving more than 6 million people and that none exceeded federal standards for lead in drinking water.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s water authority is spending $50 million to lower lead levels in water there.
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